Wow, I could even see a man in this shirt and pose. If you don’t know how rare that gender flip is for a female celebrity on a magazine cover, check out Reel Girl’s post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. Can’t wait to buy this issue!
Yesterday, in a BBC interview, Angelina Jolie said that the controversial wing-cutting scene in “Maleficent” is a metaphor for rape.
“We were very conscious, the writer and I, that it was a metaphor for rape,” Jolie said of the harrowing sequence, in which Maleficent’s wings are stolen as she’s in a drug-induced sleep. “This would be the thing that would make her lose sight.”
UN Special Envoy Jolie has visited victims of wartime sexual violence in Bosnia and in the DNC. Her 2011 directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, is set during the Bosnian civil war of the late twentieth century. During that conflict, experts estimate that 50,000 women were raped. According to AFP, Jolie was so moved by the plight of survivors there that she worked for two years to make this summit — the largest of its kind to date — a reality.
It was while doing media for the summit that Jolie addressed the rape metaphor in “Maleficent.”
Angelina Jolie spoke to BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour in a live broadcast Tuesday, June 10, where she compared one harrowing scene in Maleficent to rape. Addressing more than 300 government dignitaries at the London-hosted Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Special Envoy Jolie was asked about the scene in the fairy tale fantasy film, in which the titular character’s wings are torn off her body by a childhood friend.
Fantasy meets reality meet fantasy. Thank you, Angelina Jolie, once again, for speaking up and taking action to make a difference for women and girls around the world. Hopefully, more female writers, actors, producers, directors, musicians, singers, artists etc will publicly tell their own stories, and the narratives we all experience will open up, diversify, and change. Then, the world we exist in will change as well.
I’m re-posting my last blog on “Maleficent:”
This is my fifth post on the fabulous ‘Maleficent’ movie which I saw with my three daughters and my husband last Friday. I’m obviously a little obsessed.
If you’ve been following my blogs, I keep arguing, contrary to what almost everyone else seems to believe, that when Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings, it’s not necessarily a rape metaphor. I’d like to set one thing straight given the comments I’ve received. Yes, everyone is allowed their own interpretation. My blogs, about how this scene is not rape, I am quite aware come from my own bias that I want to lay out for you here:
(1) I am 45 years old and exhausted with seeing women raped on screen. I just wrote about my fatigue regarding bell hooks’s forum: Are You Still a Slave ? Liberating the Black Female Body with a blog title borrowed from a hooks quote: “If I never see another naked, enslaved, black woman on screen, I’ll be happy.”
(2) I have 3 daughters ages 5, 7, and 10, and I am desperate for them to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists. This wish of mine probably goes back to my first point, that I am 45 and sick of seeing the “feminist” trope where the female struggles against the patriarchy. It’s not just that I’ve seen it one million times before, but that in order for my children to see a girl struggling to be taken seriously or be strong or powerful even though she’s a girl, first my kids have to understand sexism. In order to “get” the story, first they have to understand that the world believes girls are less than boys. I would prefer, certainly for little kids, that they be exposed to fantasy worlds where girls and boys are depicted as equal, where girls are not made fun of, put down, or limited because of their gender. I understand how important the narrative of the girl proving she’s “just as good as a boy” is historically, I’m not asking for it to be obliterated, I’m just asking for more stories where there is gender equality. If we can’t imagine gender equality, we cant create it. At this point, The Hunger Games may be the only fantasy world I’ve read where gender is not an issue.
(3) There are several reasons I believed “Maleficent” depicts a fantasy world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. Everyone is allowed their own interpretation, author’s intention is dead, but it can still be a factor in understanding the movie. I believed that it was both the screenwriter’s and Angelina Jolie’s intention that the conflict in the movie was not male vs female but human vs Fairy. Here are the reasons why:
A. The narrator introduces the movie as one about two worlds, one human and one magical.
C. With most of the scenes between them being childhood ones, I experienced the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent as special because it was a friendship between two warring species.
D. This quote from the writer, Linda Woolverton:
I had to figure out what possibly could have happened to her to make her want to hurt an innocent baby. Something that would equal that act. In the animated movie, she had no wings. She just threw her robes open like wings. I thought, ‘Is that it? Did someone take her wings?
Maleficent’s wings defined her as a Fairy. These wings were cut. This violence had nothing to do with her genitals/ rape. Why must we assume that when violence is done to a woman, it must involve her genitals? When Delilah put Samson to sleep in her lap and his hair was cut, was that a rape metaphor? As someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page commented, the Maleficent scene could be compared to cutting off the hand of a concert pianist or, I might add, cutting off the wings off a Fairy!
E. This quote from Angelina Jolie made me think she wanted “Maleficent” to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny instead of matriarchy vs patriarchy.
“Our movie has all this strength and all this feminism, but, what I think is so nice is that, sometimes, in order to do that you have to make the man an idiot. Instead, we have this very elegant, wonderfully handsome, prince who, in the end, is great. He doesn’t need to be less than to make us more than. We don’t have to simplify or cheapen the men, or to detract from one to make the other better. I think that’s a mistake that’s often made in movies.
But, here’s my new news. It’s been one week since I saw “Maleficent,” and now I realize, to my dismay, though I still love this movie, I agree with so many others: “Maleficent” is not a world where gender isn’t destiny but depicts the conflict of matriarchy versus patriarchy. So why my change of heart? Is it that I now agree the wing cutting is clearly a rape metaphor? That the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent is primarily romantic?
No. What’s made me change my perception is I’ve been dwelling on my one earlier disappointment with the movie. The human crowd scenes are populated by all male characters. Please, tell me I missed something, but from my recollection, the king’s army is comprised of all male soldiers. When the king sends his followers to kill Maleficent, wishing for an heir, the circle around him is all male. And when Stefan returns with Maleficent’s wings, the king says something to the effect of, “Take my daughter.” If the king had been surrounded by half women when he sends his minions off to kill, if the army had been half women fighters, if we’d seen Maleficent use her power to strike down women soldiers as well as male ones, this fantasy world would’ve been one where gender doesn’t matter. But we did not see this. Therefore, the movie is clearly about patriarchy vs matriarchy, thus, the rape scene makes perfect sense.
Still, Angelina Jolie may have intended for her movie to depict a world where gender isn’t destiny rather than matriarchy vs patriarchy. But, if this is the case, she should’ve made sure the crowd scenes showed men and women equally. The scene could be primarily males just because of Jolie’s– and the producer’s, writer’s, director’s obviously– unconscious bias. But this is why author’s intention doesn’t matter, because viewers see things in the story that are there whether the creator “chose” to put them there or not.
The Geena Davis Institute does extensive research on gender bias in children’s films, coming up with two– just two– main ways to make kids’ films show gender equality:
Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?
Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.
It’s sort of like how someone said, I forget who it was, that we won’t have gender equality when female geniuses make it through the glass ceiling, when exceptional women break barriers, but when the mediocre, average ones make it into the power structure, just like all the average white men are up there. It’s all about the crowd scenes.
Alternative title for this post: What happens when an over-educated woman has three daughters and gets stuck watching way too many Disney movies? She blogs.
Update: I’m getting comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page asking if I still recommend Maleficent for kids. Yes, absolutely take your children to see this movie, rape metaphor or no. They will not get the metaphor. It’s only disappointing to me because, as I wrote, I would like children to experience fantasy worlds where gender equality exists, and I’ve come to believe that “Maleficent” isn’t one of those worlds. Still, the movie has a great female protagonist (rare in kids’s films) and shows other strong, complex female characters as well. All three of my kids and my husband enjoyed the movie. Read the last post listed below for my full review.
Reel Girl’s posts on “Maleficent:”
This week, news reports headlined that Angelina Jolie’s aunt died from breast cancer. Watching “Entertainment Tonight” yesterday, my husband and I saw graphs and images of Jolie’s maternal family tree back to her great-great grandmother, tracked by an investigative journalist. We saw images of death certificates and who signed them. I was wondering why, with all of this incredibly deep, highly researched, investigative coverage we never hear anything about the terribly creepy story of who owns the BRCA gene. That’s right, owns it. The “breast cancer gene” mutation that Jolie tested positive for, a discovery that made her decide to undergo a double mastectomy, is the property of a corporation called Myriad Genetics.
Breast Cancer Action opposes human gene patenting. We believe it’s wrong for the government to give one company the power to dictate all scientific and medical uses of genes that each of us has in our bodies. We urgently need more and better options for the treatment and risk reduction of breast cancer, and we cannot afford to have progress stymied by the monopolies that gene patents create.
How did I get the story about the BRCA gene amidst all the Jolie coverage? From CNN, the New York Times, an entertainment show? No, from a Tweet on Peggy Orenstein’s feed:
Myriad genetics OWNS BRCA gene. OWNS it. That’s a block to research & better options for someone like Angelina Jolie
I follow Orenstein because I’m a huge fan of her book, CInderellla Ate My Daughter. Orenstein is also a breast cancer survivor, who, coincidentally, wrote an in depth story for New York Times Magazine “Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer” covering the corruption in breast cancer research, funding, and treatment published just a month before Jolie’s huge story broke.
Here’s something else we don’t hear about breast health that I learned from Orenstein’s blog:
I find that when I tell my friends that my reconstructed breast is numb they are shocked: they had no idea that would be so.
I’ve blogged before that breasts are secondary sex characteristics, but we hardly think of them that way any more in this culture. The value of breasts seems to be mostly the aesthetic and sexual pleasure of men. Almost as an afterthought, we realize that breasts exist to nurture babies. But what about recognzing that breasts are there for the sexual pleasure of women? Fake breasts are often numb breasts, and if you think about it, that’s about as asexual as you can get.
As I’ve blogged, Jolie made a viable choice. I admire her for speaking out publicly about what happened to her. When women tell their stories, it helps all women. But I hope that America takes advantage of this media coverage about breast health to find out more on the truth about cancer and treatment.
Last night, “Entertainment Tonight” showed images of Jolie’s two biological daughters, Shiloh and Vivienne, reporting that medical experts advise they get tested for BRCA at age 18. I hope Jolie works to give her daughters better options, continuing to speak out about the issues around breast health, and the problems that occur when a government allows a corporation to own genes. Americans need to know about it.
Today, actress and director Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. She made that choice after discovering she carried a dangerous gene and also because her mom died of cancer.
I am so grateful that both of these women have the courage and access to tell the truth about their lives publicly. When women can speak out and tell their own stories, that helps all women. Both of you are making sure that a “woman’s issue” gets on the front pages and into the forefront of national discussion. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this more educated than we were. THANK YOU.
Update: Here goes the nat’l public discussion: Did u know corporations can own genes? Tweet from Peggy, check out the link:
Myriad genetics OWNS BRCA gene. OWNS it. That’s a block to research & better options for someone like Angelina Jolie http://ow.ly/l1XTX
In honor of Malala Yousufzai, the 14 year-old Pakistani girl who was tragically shot [Wedensday] by the Taliban for exercising her fundamental right to an education, the Women in the World Foundation is launching a Woman of Impact Award for Girls Education to provide funds to women and girls fighting for girls education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are making an emergency appeal to our Women in the World Community to join Tina Brown and Angelina Jolie in this campaign. 100% of the proceeds will go towards girls education on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ms. Jolie’s Education Partnership for Children of Conflict will contribute the first $50,000 to this effort.
Angelina Jolie writes:
Malala was just 11 years old when she began blogging for the BBC. She wrote of life under the Taliban, of trading in her school uniform for colorless plain clothes, of hiding books under her shawl, and eventually having to stop going to school entirely…The Taliban claimed that 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai “ignored their warnings, and she left them no choice.” They approached her school bus, asking for her by name, and shot her in the head for promoting girls’ education.
Nicolas Kristof writes in the NY Times:
Surgeons have removed a bullet from Malala, and she remains unconscious in critical condition in a hospital in Peshawar. A close family friend, Fazal Moula Zahid, told me that doctors are hopeful that there has been no brain damage and that she will ultimately return to school.
After recovery, she will continue to get an education,” Fazal said. “She will never, never drop out of school. She will go to the last.”
Women and girls around the world are supporting Malala.
If you can, please donate money now.
Garfield isn’t the only cartoon hero relentlessly mocked for his weight.
I was shocked at the continual stream of fat jokes while watching the animated hit, Kung Fu Panda. The story is about a panda, Po, who dreams of becoming a martial artist instead of a noodle seller like his father. What holds him back is his weight. The Furious Five, a pack of martial artists he idolizes– who are all male except for a token female voiced by Angelina Jolie– constantly make fun of Po’s weight. When these characters mock Po, surprisingly they retain their hero status; they are not portrayed as cruel bullies. Kids watching this movie see that it is OK and justified to put Po down for his body size. It’s espcially odd to witness teasing behavior shown as acceptable and funny, because making fun of others is a constant theme in kids movies; but it’s always potrayed as bad and wrong, acted out by the villians, not the good guys. Unless, I guess, the teasing is focused on fatness. Then it’s OK, just funny and true. Po’s teacher, Si Fun, constantly beats him up to convince him to quit his training, because he’s too fat to succeed. This prediction seems justified also.
In one scene, Po explains that the brutal training and beatings he suffers are mild compared to the pain
he experiences every day “just being me.” Then he looks down sadly at his big stomach, equating “me” with his body size, obviously feeling a lot of shame.
Po explains that when he’s upset, he eats. The turning point in his training comes when Si Fun realizes that Po can be motivated to perform amazing acrobatic feats by a jar of cookies on a high shelf. They begin to train with food as a reward. Po does pushups over hot coals while trying to slurp noodles from a bowl of soup. Po and Si Fun battle over a bowl of dumplings. It’s good, I guess, that Po doesn’t end up becoming thin in order to be a master. But the way this movie uses fat and food to advance its plot line and character development is truly odd and confusing if you’ve taught your kids– as I have– not to experience food as a reward and not to think fat people are bad, or to be made fun of, or that they are not as good as thin people. After about two hours of fat jokes, my kids came out of the movie with lots of questions about why being big is funny and bad why don’t I think so too?
Another popular animated movie, Wall-E (also named for its star male character) has a central plot line where the fat aliens are mocked. The aliens have evolved into an existence where machines do everything for them. They are fat, lazy, and nasty. Lucy asked me during the movie, “Why do they all look like that?” I guess I was supposed to say, “because they don’t get exercise. They’re lazy.” The message that fat people lie around all day and that if you don’t work out, you will look like a fat, pink alien is not something I want my daughter to learn. She’s six years old. I’d rather her do the monkey bars and play soccer because she loves it and it’s fun. I’d like my girls to learn to use their bodies out of joy and pleasure, not fear, for as long as possible– their whole lives?